Days 1 & 2 | Days 3 & 4 | Days 5 & 6 | Days 7 & 8 | Days 9 & 10
Day 9: Sept. 8 – Back to the Pye for kudu. More walking and looking, always dodging impala. A couple of young kudu bulls and an hour later, Willie pointed into a thicket. Using binoculars to focus out the intervening brush, Terry and I were able to make out a big kudu bull. He was feeding away from us. Too thick to go after him. We slipped downwind and looped around the acacia thicket and waited … and waited. He never came out. Terry figured he had moved off in another direction. He sent Willie and Mulalazee in to find tracks to follow. Within minutes, we were on the tracks of four bull kudu. For over a mile, we tracked them though the acacia trees. Then, the big bull split off from the other three. We took up his track. It’s something to watch these guys work – Terry the quarterback and Willie and Mulalazee the skilled players. Another mile farther, we rounded an acacia thicket … and walked right into the big bull. He barked an alarm and crashed off toward the Pye River.
The dry Pye River bed is about 150 yards across with steep banks of both sides. If we could get to the riverbed before the kudu, we might be able to catch him trying to cross, offering an open shot. That in mind, we ran. Huffing and puffing, we scrambled down the bank into the fine gravel riverbed … to be greeted by 6 or 7 female kudu crossing the river about 250 yards away. We dropped to our knees and set up, hoping the big bull was following. After five minutes, the females still milled around uncertain of what we were but no bull had showed.
Then, the unexpected. A big bull kudu dropped into the riverbed coming from the opposite direction. It was immediately clear he was exceptional. Terry confirmed. “He’s good. Shoot that bull.” The kudu seemed to have a destination in mind. He walked without stopping past the cows, ignoring our whistles. Terry scrambled to his feet and signaled us to do the same. We sprinted the remaining 70 yards to the opposite bank in hopes of being able to look back across the river and see the kudu before he disappeared into the thick riverside cover. We reached the top, dust flying. Terry set the Bog-Pods for a shot. I cranked the CDS dial on the Leupold to 300 yards and leaned into the sticks to get ready for whatever was about to happen.
Again, the unexpected. The bull reversed directions and headed back the way he had come, apparently following the cows who had run when we did. The bull, now well over 300 yards away, stopped momentarily to see what all the ruckus was about. I was trying to settle the crosshairs when he broke into a run to our side of the river where the cows had run. Terry shouted, “Got to shoot him now!” I did. The 180-grain Winchester XP3 stuck with a wallop. The bull flinched on the impact but kept going. I bolted another round and fired just before he disappeared under the bank. Another solid “whump!” Seconds later, he popped out on top of the bank, quartering away at nearly 400 yards. I fired again and was rewarded a moment later by the sound of a bullet striking flesh. The kudu staggered. A fourth shot flew high as the bull reversed directions and slumped to the ground. The shootout on the Pye was over.
We trekked the nearly quarter-mile to the prize. If the awe of walking up to a downed trophy ever goes away, I’ll know my hunting days are over. The feeling I got walking up to this grand old bull told me my passion was unabated. The 700-pound antelope carried long, wide record-book horns. The entire team marveled at the beauty and majesty of this great bull. Even Mulalazee, a government-assigned game scout who generally sees game more as meat than a national treasure, got caught up in the excitement of the moment. As Mulalazee admired the spiraling horns and stroked the kudu’s mane, Terry commented that Mulalazee had really grown in his an appreciation of the value of the game since joining the hunting team, an appreciation he will hopefully share with other native Zimbabweans.
We retrieved the Land Cruiser, loaded the kudu, and headed to the skinning shed. For me, the pressure was off. The hunting part of the TV show was in the can. Only a leisurely day and a half of interviews and B-roll remained … and maybe another run after the giant warthog and a little more impala shooting to stock the cold room.
Lunch lively. In addition to my kudu, David Shashy shot a bushbuck. A heavy, slightly broomed old buck that David had seen earlier and really wanted. He and Richard had executed a successful stalk that gave David a 60-yard shot. He was very excited. The heavy lifting is done. David and I both have the major species we came for. Took a little nap before heading back out at 3:00.
The afternoon was spent testing the Leupold CDS scope at ranges out to 450 yards. It worked perfectly, instilling confidence in long-range shooting. Of course, precise shooting over 300 yards requires that you know the exact distance. The Leupold RX-1000 TBR Rangefinder took care of this. It’s a marvelous thing to hold dead-on something at 450 yards and hit it! Leupold is onto something with their CDS scopes. While testing, I took the opportunity to sniper a few impala for the pot. All the while, we continued our futile search for the big warthog.
We closed out the day patrolling the huge food plot against the nightly onslaught from warthogs. They stage along the electric fence at last light working up the courage to charge it. Lots of squealing as they penetrate the barrier to get to the succulent forage inside. Warthogs are about the only thing that regularly challenges the fence, unless elephants decide they want some greenery. Then, the fence is just an inconvenience.
Day 10: Sept. 9 – Our last day. A bit of melancholy hangs in the air. But a day in Africa is a day to be cherished. We did. We knocked out our interviews in the morning, opening up the afternoon to shoot B-roll to fill out the show. There’s way too many special places and sites on Sentinel to see in just one afternoon – dinosaur digs and fossils, Bushmen caving paintings and artifacts, some of the biggest baobab trees in Africa (over 2,000 years old!), a nearby village living life like their ancestors, red rock hills lit by the setting sun, elephants cavorting at a perpetual spring, and a lush emerald green food plot in the middle of harsh, parched scrubland, to name but a few – ah, Sentinel and Africa, a place God smiled on.
Packing and paperwork had to be taken care of that evening but not until we celebrated a great safari. What a hunt it been for David and me! I had taken the full complement of spiral horns, and David had taken a trophy bull elephant, a big-bossed buffalo, and an old bushbuck. This was my fourth and best trip to Sentinel. It was David’s second … and I’m sure, his best. David, Chuck, Digby, Vanessa, Terry, Richard, and I all raised a glass to the hope that, Lord willing, this trip to Sentinel would not be our last!
Bucks of Tecomate - African Edition
Days 1 & 2 | Days 3 & 4 | Days 5 & 6 | Days 7 & 8 | Days 9 & 10
For information on hunting sentinel Limpopo Safari’s, contact:
Burnt Pine Travel & Burnt Pine Plantation
1020 Ven Villa Road
Marietta, GA 30062
FAX: (770) 321-8317